NCAA Tournament Picks: Take Virginia To Cover ATS & Go 'Under' Against Iowa State

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 2:53 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 23, 2016 2:53 PM UTC

It's a chalk top half of the Midwest Region bracket for the Sweet 16 on Friday as #1 Virginia faces #4 Iowa State, with the winner getting either #11 Gonzaga or #10 Syracuse. NCAA odds are on fire.

Cyclones Rolling Into Sweet 16
Iowa State (23-11) has looked as good as anyone in this tournament so far but also has faced some iffy competition. The Cyclones beat #13 Iona 94-81 in the first round and then caught a break in the Round of 32 as it faced #12 Arkansas-Little Rock instead of #5 Purdue. ISU won that game 78-61, shooting 56.6 percent from the field.

Cyclones All-American forward Georges Niang has been one of the most impressive players in this tournament in scoring 28 points in each to go with a combined 12 rebounds and six assists. On the season, Niang averages 20.2 points on 54.6 percent shooting along with 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He was probably the best player in the Big 12 this season not named Buddy Hield. Niang's 688 points rank seventh in school history for a single season. Niang now has 185 3-pointers in his career, which just passed Fred Hoiberg(183) for fourth in school history. Hoiberg had been Iowa State's coach before leaving after last season to take over the Chicago Bulls. Niang is the fifth-leading all-time scorer in the Big 12.

Niang is the primary reason Iowa State ranks third nationally in offensive efficiency. Virginia has been burned by big guys who can shoot 3s previously this season, with Villanova's Kris Jenkins scoring 23 against the Cavs, Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame putting up 31 in one meeting, Duke's Brandon Ingram 25 points and Butler's Andrew Chrabascz 25.

ISU is in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons. The school has been to the Elite Eight just once: in 2000. Iowa State is +450 to win the Midwest Region at Bovada sportsbook and +2800 to win the national title.  ISU hasn't played Virginia since December 2010. The Cyclones are 17-13-1 ATS on NCAA tournament odds boards this season and 14-16-1 'over/under.'


Cavaliers Want To Slow It Down
Virginia (28-7) destroyed #16 Hampton in Round 1 and then was pushed by #9 Butler before prevailing 77-69 on Saturday in the Round of 32. ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, also one of  the finalists for the Naismith Trophy, led the way with 22 points. Anthony Gill added 17 points and Marial Shayok finished with 12 for UVA, which pulled away using a four-guard lineup. The Cavs trailed by two at halftime and by five with 15:45 to play before rallying.

The Wahoos' 54 second-half points vs. Butler were their most in any half this season and most in any half of an NCAA Tournament game since 1995. Virginia shot 73.1 percent after intermission against the Bulldogs, the second-best field-goal percentage in an NCAA tourney game in school history. UVA is 79-4 when scoring at least 70 points under Coach Tony Bennett. This is the school's ninth-all time trip to the Sweet 16 and second under Bennett (other in 2014). Virginia hasn't been to the Elite Eight since 1995.

This will be a terrific matchup of styles as UVA is one of the nation's top defensive teams, allowing just 59.7 points per game (#2 nationally), while as mentioned above ISU is #3 in offensive efficiency. The Cavaliers are 5-3 vs. the current Top 10 in offensive efficiency this season. ISU wants to play fast and UVA slow. The Wahoos are dead last among all Division I teams in adjusted tempo with 62.4 possessions per game. UVA is the -110 favorite to win the Midwest Region and +575 to take the national title. The Cavs are 18-14-1 ATS on NCAA tournament picks and 13-20 O/U.


Common Opponents
On Dec. 8, Virginia played #14 West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic in New York and won 70-54. Iowa State played the Mountaineers twice in Big 12 play. ISU lost both: 81-76 at home on Feb. 2 and 97-87 in Morgantown on Feb. 22. The Cyclones did play one ACC team: Virginia Tech on Nov. 27 in a Florida Thanksgiving tournament. Iowa State won 99-77. Virginia lost at Virginia Tech 70-68 on Jan. 4 and then beat the Hokies in Charlottesville 67-49. So take from those what you will. 


NCAAB Free Picks
Which tempo wins out? In this case, I say Virginia's Give the points, go 'under'. ISU is 2-5 ATS in its past seven after a win. Virginia has covered six of its past eight games. The 'under' is 10-3 in Iowa State's past 13 neutral-site games. It is 12-3 in Virginia's past 15 games overall. Don't forget to check the bracket for a better overview of both team's run through the matches. 

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Free NCAA Tournament Pick: Virginia -5 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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